Many different intellectual property rights exist in the videogame industry, from names and logotypes to source code and art. Some things are protected by copyright, while others can for example be protected by trademark. Copyright exists from the moment the work, like a videogame or its content, is created, but other things, like the company name and logotype, usually have to be registered as trademarks to enjoy protection. Yet, knowing what to register and how to do it isn’t necessarily easy, and it’s not uncommon, especially for new studios, to make mistakes when first designing their brand.
“One of the most common pitfalls is to choose a name or a logotype without registering it,” said Henrik Wallin, lawyer at Lawyer.se and expert in intellectual property rights. “And then, when it’s time to register it, someone else already has the same or a similar mark protected which can cause problems for the company. It is easier to change a name or a logotype in the early stages when forming a company than after a period of time when the name or brand is already established.”
Jingles, words, figures, and even colors in some cases, are also creations that could be trademarked.
Making sure that your studio’s intellectual property is trademarked is important, both so that the brand stands out and to avoid someone else benefiting from your work, Wallin explained, adding that the process of registering trademarks should start as early as possible.
“When you start a business, for example, you should choose a name that can be trademarked. The trademark cannot be descriptive of the goods or services that the company markets. It would not be possible to trademark ‘Video Game Company,’ for example.”
Intellectual property can be trademarked in different classes, which all cover different kinds of goods and services. Registering a logotype in one category does not, therefore, protect it from being used or trademarked by a company that operates in another class. Wallin’s recommendation is to consider what products the studio will realistically look to create. If, for example, a studio is solely focused on mobile games, it may not be necessary to register a trademark in the clothing class.
“If you have done your due diligence, it’s much more likely that your application will be accepted,” Wallin said.